Tag Archive | "Free Agent"

Keeping Perspective With Mark Reynolds Deal

The Cardinals pulled their first fish out of this year’s free agent waters on Thursday, by inking first baseman Mark Reynolds. Reynolds, most recently of the Milwaukee Brewers, was a specific target for the Cardinals this winter and his acquisition came to fruition finally today. He agreed to a one-year deal with financial terms yet to be disclosed.

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The club entered the off season with a specific need to get a more varied offering from the first base position, after Matt Adams struggled against left-handed pitching again in 2014. As well, there was a pronounced focus on adding more right-handed power to a bench that struggled to find a consistent source of productive depth over the last few years behind its front eight.

The 31-year-old Reynolds is coming off a year where he hit 22 home runs and drove in 45 runs for Milwaukee, while carrying a .196 average. In his career he is an owner of seven consecutive 20 home run campaigns, highlighted by a 44 homer breakout in 2009. Easily capable of significant outburst of power and run production, Reynolds represents a potential find in both of these areas  for a team that finished towards the bottom of the NL in both areas. However, he also comes with obviously easy points to detract from as well, as his alarmingly low batting average showcases. So why don’t we go head and extol those areas first and get it out of the way, okay?

Mainly, he strikes out, a lot. It is truly done at an epic rate. He strikes out at such a frequent pace that it has become virtually impossible for him to play every day. He has never had a season where he made 500 plate appearances that he did not notch at least 150 strikeouts, highlighted by the four year run where he led his league in k’s, checking in at 204, 223, 211 and 196 from 2008-11. In his 4,380 plate appearances, 1,398 of them have ended with a strikeout, a 31% overall clip.

That is a prodigious number that is undeniably a red flag. And it is also clipped by the fact that he carries a .229 career average and .324 on-base percentage. Now, the OBP is not particularly horrifying, as he is somewhat adept at drawing walks as well. However he will be the classic example of an edge of the seat option; if he makes an impact, it is either all or nothing.

Now the benefits of it all. All in all, he is a minor disciple of the Adam Dunn School of True Outcomes: homer, walk or strikeout. But in regards to the role he will be asked to man in St. Louis, that is okay. Barring substantial injury to Adams, he is not going to be asked to be an everyday presence, and in the event that he was, he could fit comfortably into the bottom half of the lineup with some regularly and not cause a catastrophic change to the team’s potential.

The one trick pony at the plate brings a quietly diverse element to the overall picture when his potential with the glove is brought into consideration too. While Reynolds considered to be an above-average first baseman, he is versatile enough to shift across the diamond as well if needed. With the non-tender of Daniel Descalso earlier this month, there was a void in who could back up Matt Carpenter if needed as well.

The Cardinals are devoid of many free swingers, which also can play into why they are devoid of very many home runs as well. In 2014, the Cardinals finished with both the fewest strikeouts in the NL (1,133), as well as the fewest home runs (105). Additional of Reynolds is sure to create an upswing in both categories, which creates an increase in a need category, as well as an increase in a manageable negative area. It is the definition of giving some to get some.

All in all, the move to grab one of the few clear cut options on the open market that can increase the team’s potential is a solid, if not spectacular one. But the Cardinals are not in need of spectacular moves, they are in need of finding finishing touches. When tasked with rounding out a roster, there are some edges that have to be covered with not the smoothest all-around options. If Reynolds stays par the course of his usual tendencies (whilst keeping the extremes in check), he offers a definitely needed solution in an area that had few answers last summer.

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The Cardinals Will Have a Strong Left Side of the Infield for Years to Come

AledmysDiaz

 

Over the last week, the Cardinals have made two moves that have locked up and solidified the left side of the infield for years to come. It has also, for the first time in years, guaranteed strength at two positions that have not always been the strongest positions on the team.

The Cards have had a sort of rotating door at shortstop for years. For the short period when Rafeal Furcal was healthy, the team was getting production. But when he was hurt, they had to rely on the likes of Ryan Theriot and Pete Kozma. Those experiments did not pan out and SS has remained a weak spot on the lineup.

Somewhat similarly at third base, David Freese has been good when healthy, but Cardinal fans are very privy on his health issues and it became impossible to rely on a full season from Freese, regardless of what kind of production he gave when he was at a hundred percent.

Last week, the Cardinals signed Matt Carpenter to a 6 year, $52 million dollar extension. The contract particulars per year include:

  • 6 years guaranteed
  • $52 million guaranteed (including a $1.5 million signing bonus)
  • 2014:  $1 million
  • 2015:  $3.5 million
  • 2016:  $6.25 million
  • 2017:  $9.75 million
  • 2018:  $13.5 million
  • 2019:  $14.5 million
  • 2020:  Club option for $18.5 million or $2 million buyout

Last year, Carpenter put up MVP numbers. He is 28  years old and his current contract will carry him until he is 34 years old. Those are some prime years the Cards will get from the third baseman, and hopefully some career stats will come with it.

Along with the extension, the Cards signed Cuban free-agent shortstop Aledmys Diaz to a 4 year, $8 million dollar contract. Diaz is a very promising signing, but isn’t quite the guarantee that Carpenter is. There are some major questions surrounding him. Can he stick at SS? Is his bat good enough to transfer to another position? Where does he start next season?

The signing is ultimately a good risk for the Cardinals, and in comparison to other recent Cuban defectors, is a bargain for the team.

Another benefit of the Diaz signing was the prior signing of Jhonny Peralta in the off-season. By signing Peralta to a 4 year, $52 million year contract, they have locked up the position for years to come. And that hasn’t changed at all. It does make the Diaz singing slightly confusing. But it is definitely a good problem for the team to have.

Other safety nets on the left side of the infield

Greg Garcia

The minor leaguer has been in the wings for years, waiting for his chance to come up. Last year with Memphis he hit an impressive .281/.386/.403. The high on base pct and the ability to steal bases positions Garcia to be a solid top-of-the-order player.

Pete Kozma

Most Cardinals’ fans would be happy to never see Kozma be a regular-day starter again. But desperate times may call for desperate measures. And with DL stints inevitable, Kozma could fill in at times. He is also still young, so development and improvement are possible.

Oscar Mercado

Mercado was drafted 57 overall last year by the Cards. The 18 year-old is a slender 6’2, 175 pounds. He is an option later down the road, but has promising upside. A Bleacher Report scouting report ranks him on the 80-point scale at:

Hitting: 35/55

Power: 30/40

Speed: 50/50

Defense: 45/60

Arm: 50/55

So a lot of questions remained unanswered. But they are good questions to have. Along with having two proven All-Stars at third and shortstop next year, the Cardinals also have many more options in the future.

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Making The Winter Rounds In the NL Central

While much of the success that a team has comes from its own preparation, what goes on around them also plays a huge factor. The Cardinals have been among the most successful clubs at concisely addressing their needs this winter, but how has the rest of the National League Central done?

Washington Nationals v St. Louis Cardinals

What is for certain is that the margin for error was slim-to-none last summer in the heart of the National League. While the Cardinals succeeded in winning the division, they finished only three games ahead of the Pirates, and seven in front the third-place Reds. And this feat was achieved only by a September surge that pulled them out of a three-way race that was separated by less than a two games entering the season’s final frame.

Even below the upper tier of the division, the Brewers and the Cubs are both looking to develop a new phase for their respective fortunes. Amid the Ryan Braun Biogenesis fallout and the continued resurfacing in Chicago, both teams finished well outside of the race, but continue to look for ways to tweak the approach.

However, the NL Central has not been a division that has made a sweeping amount of substantial additions. In fact, many faces from each team have departed and the action to replace them has not been as loud as it has been in, say the American League East or West. Thus far, only the Cardinals have made any major additions of note, and when combined with what’s in place already, potential the NL Central gauntlet could be a thing of the past potentially.

Here is how the winter has gone for the Cardinals’ divisional neighbors thus far, and what could be to come before the winter turns to spring…

 

Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68 in 2013)

Gains: Clint Barmes (resigned), Chris Stewart, Edison Volquez

Losses: Marlon Byrd (Phillies), Garrett Jones (Marlins), Justin Morneau (Rockies)

The detail: The Pirates have let both of the main parts they added for the stretch run last year walk, which should come as no surprise. While the presence of Jose Tabata and Gaby Sanchez makes this bearable, the loss of Jones as well leaves a substantial loss in power potential. Add in the pending free agent status of AJ Burnett, and this is a team that has more than a few questions currently. The addition of Volquez is both an attempt to pad this looming issue, as well as to catch the same type of former All-Star lightning in a bottle they did with Liriano last summer.

What’s Looming: Burnett will either resign or retire most likely, and it is a decision that could linger into the spring. Pittsburgh is armed with a young core and could look to add some value priced veterans, but they are likely to take a step back in everyday potency as long as their first base situation is up in the air.

 

Cincinnati Reds (90-72 in 2013)

Additions: Brayan Pena, Skip Schumaker

Subtractions: Shin-Soo Choo (Rangers), Ryan Hanigan (Rays), Xavier Paul (Orioles), Dusty Baker (Fired)

The detail: The Reds have probably seen the most change of any team in the division, which started with the firing of manager Dusty Baker a day after their loss in the NL Wild Card Game. On the field, the expected loss of Choo came, and they flirted with the idea of moving Brandon Phillips as well, but were scoffed by the Yankees before it could go through. Their operation has been based in promoting from within (trading Hanigan to open up a full-time role for Devin Mesoraco), and rounding out the bench this offseason, with additions such as the former Cardinal Schumaker. They are very much a team that is not quite rebuilding, but is definitely retooling their approach on the run.

What’s Looming: As it stands today, the Reds are a wild card, and very much the definition of a third place-level club. They will return the majority of the top half of their staff and every day lineup, but the future of Bronson Arroyo and where he lands next year potentially removes a vital safety valve in their rotation. Billy Hamilton will take over the reins in the center field, and will be asked to slide into the leadoff spot that Choo masterfully performed in last year.

 

Milwaukee Brewers (74-88 in 2013)

Additions: None

Subtractions: Corey Hart (Mariners)

The Story: 2013 stunk for Milwaukee. They couldn’t get a steady effort on the mound, injuries and suspensions killed their offensive potential and they could never crack into the competitive mix in the division. On the heels of it all, they’ve been the quietest team in the division, without much coming or going. This is either a sign that they feel they can compete with a return to full strength, or that they are simply hamstrung by what is available in the market—and what fits their needs.

What’s Looming: The loss of Hart hurts, as they struggled to find a replacement for him last season, and now don’t have a clear successor for him now that he has officially moved on. They have had interest in Mets first baseman Ike Davis, but have been reluctant to depart with any of their young arms to do so. However, with either Sean Halton or Juan Francisco as their only viable replacements, their hand could be forced eventually.

 

Chicago Cubs (66-96 in 2013)

Additions: Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Roberts, George Kottaras, Jose Veras, Wesley Wright

Subtractions: Dioner Navarro (Blue Jays)

The Story: The Cubs have once again been mostly quiet, having their name thrown into the rumor mill before they quickly pull it back out themselves. However, they have steadily gone along adding parts to their shed, rebuilding their bench completely and adding a new closer in Jose Veras as well.

What’s Looming: In the end, they could potentially make the biggest name splash of any team in the division, as they are said to be major suitors for newly available Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. If the franchise decides to go all in to add him (and he agrees to come to the lowly Cubs over the bigger names on the market), they would have a legitimate ace-caliber arm for the first time in years. Jeff Samardzija’s name has been often floated, but at this juncture, the club’s likely opening day starter as things stand now will likely stay in tow for a bit longer.

 

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Cardinals Drop Three From 40-Man Roster

In the continued offseason evolution of the Cardinal roster, the team parted ways with three players on Tuesday, as the free agent free-for-all continues to inch closer. The team parted ways with outfielder Adron Chambers, first baseman/outfielder Brock Peterson and catcher Rob Johnson.

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The decision was made to outright each from the club’s 40-man roster, which each followed by electing for free agency. Each played bit parts with the team throughout the year, with Chambers playing the furthest into the season with the club, as he was a part of both the Wild Card and NL Championship Series rosters. He was also the most tenured member of the team to leave the organization, as he was drafted by the team in the 38th round of the 2007 draft and appeared in parts of three separate seasons. For his career, he is a .216 hitter in 88 career at-bats, after turning in several promising seasons while rising through the system. The most promising of those years was 2012, when Chambers hit .319 for Memphis and saw his longest look in the majors as well. However, despite his plus speed and defensive ability, he was buried by Shane Robinson’s hot spring and then never showed the bat to be able to put his best asset to work.

Johnson was brought in as an experienced backstop to share the spring load, and to guard against any potential regression from Tony Cruz. Yet when Cruz proved capable of handling the load when needed, especially during the absence of Yadier Molina to injury, Johnson eventually became not much more than an emergency fallback option than anything else. The 31-year-old hit .171 in 20 games in St. Louis, after a .236 effort in Memphis across 59 contests.

Peterson was one of the best stories of the season, reaching the Majors after 11 years spent in the minors. He hit 25 home runs in his All-Star season for Memphis, he made his long-awaited MLB debut, but managed only two hits in 26 at-bats afterwards, and never carried over into being the type of right-handed power threat the team had hoped for.

With the release of the Chambers, Johnson and Peterson, along with the elections for free agency by Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, Edward Mujica and Carlos Beltran, three spots on the Cardinal 40-man roster are open. Jason Motte was activated from the 60-Day disabled list as well, taking another open spot on the roster.

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Carpenter, Beltran and the Cardinal’s Pandora’s Box

The big question regarding the Cardinals going ahead is how will all of the assets they have fit into one roster. While there is no clear solution to that question yet, one thing that is for certain is that the biggest variable is the team’s most versatile player, Matt Carpenter.

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Whenever the 2013 season comes to a close, the season’s steadiest question will quickly become its loudest: what is going to happen with Carlos Beltran? The club’s most high profile free agent-to-be has made no secret of his desire to return with the team next spring, but while admitting that it is on the club’s radar of decisions to be made, John Mozeliak has not public committed to what extent the team would be willing to go to in order to pursue a continued relationship between player and team.

The reasons for this are simple; despite an unquestionably strong tenure in the Cardinal uniform, including two All-Star Games and 55 home runs, neither age (he will turn 37 next year) nor positional alignment fit easily into the picture going ahead. Reasons for this have included most prominently the presence of Oscar Taveras at Memphis, but perhaps more quietly the price tag of a potential part-time presence in the outfield. Add in the urge to find more at-bats for Matt Adams, while not sacrificing Allen Craig’s presence in the lineup as well, and there are a plethora of optimal situations that make a Beltran return a tough situation to imagine.

But on the other side of the equation, there is the question of if the team can afford to let him go as well. He has been a dependable power threat in a season where they have been few and far between for the team. And the issue of if Taveras both returns healthy from the nagging ankle issue that ended his 2012 early, as well as how he transitions to the Majors, loom as well. If either of those issues looms, an absence of Beltran could create quite a hole for the team, which could have been avoided.

However, the presence of Carpenter could alleviate any and all of these issues. While he has risen to his call as a second baseman in a resounding fashion, he is only a year removed from being the team’s ultimate utility man. In the upcoming years, the everyday lineup of the Cardinals has the potential to fluctuate on nearly a matchup-to-matchup basis, due to the meeting of the veterans and emerging farm system at the MLB level.

A regular feature of this mix will be Carpenter, who Mozeliak made it abundantly clear the team will be pursuing a long-term pact with soon. However, his position going ahead could best be considered being deployed again as an everyday utility weapon, in the style of how Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist has been used over the years.  The best starting spot for this could prove to be right field, where alternating Carpenter in a few times a week gets a chance to use himself, David Freese and Kolten Wong together, in addition to allowing Allen Craig or Matt Adams to stay in a first base. A move back to second or third gets the uber, “Coming Atractions” duo of Wong and Taveras on the field together as well.

While the possibilities of the Cardinal lineup are very diverse in the next few years, there is a chance that the full potential is oddly not reached by keeping one of its current All-Stars in the mix, while maximizing the abilities of another showcases more of the team’s full potential can currently being imagined.

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Five reasons the Cardinals should say no to Jake Peavy

There have been numerous reports recently that the St. Louis Cardinals are interested in White Sox starter Jake Peavy. At first, I thought to myself “That would be great!” The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that it was just the “Shiny New Toy” part of my brain talking. Once the rational part of my brain took over, I realized they should take a pass on the former Padre, and here are five reasons why:

JakePeavy2

 Cost. Unlike the recently-dealt Matt Garza, Peavy is not a free agent after the 2013 season. Garza will cost the Texas Rangers either three or four players for, at most, three months of value (unless they re-sign him during the offseason). The current collective bargaining agreement prevents the Rangers from collecting any draft-pick compensation if he departs as a free agent after the season. If Peavy is under contract for 2014, it stands to reason that the White Sox are going to expect as big a return (if not bigger) than what the Chicago Cubs obtained for Garza. That’s an exorbitant price for a 3X-year-old starter who is due to make $14.5 million in 2014 (which would make him the 2nd-highest paid pitcher on staff). And did I mention his injury history? That brings me to reason #2:

Injury-prone. Peavy was once a workhorse of several competitive Padres teams. But since 2007, he has made more than 30 starts (the standard of a consistent, healthy starter) exactly once – in 2012. He hit the DL with elbow trouble in 2008. When the White Sox traded for him in 2009, he was on the DL with an ankle injury. In 2010, he ruptured the tendon that ties the latissimus dorsi muscle to the rear of his pitching shoulder and missed significant time in 2011 as well. He has already missed several weeks in 2013 due to a rib injury.  Giving up multiple prospects (Carlos Martinez has been rumored recently) for a player with such a spotty health record? PASS.

Playoff-tested? Not so much. In the Walt Jocketty days, Peavy might have been the perfect trade-deadline acquisition for the Cardinals. But Peavy’s playoff history does not sparkle. He reached the postseason twice, in 2005-06 while with the Padres. Both seasons, the Padres faced the Cardinals; both times, they pounded him like a drum In those two starts, Peavy lasted a combined 9 2/3 innings and surrendered 19 hits, 13 runs, three home runs and struck out just five hitters. He hasn’t been close to the playoffs since then. Once again, PASS.

Lateral move? Although Peavy is a former Cy Young Award-winner, does he really represent a big upgrade over their current fifth starter? Pitching for an awful White Sox team this season, Peavy’s park-adjusted ERA+ is 104 (a tad above replacement level). St. Louis’ current fifth starter, Joe Kelly, has an ERA+ of 95, but most of his appearances this season have been out of the bullpen. In his past four appearances (all at least five innings), Kelly has pitched to a 2.49 ERA – which is more than acceptable for a fifth starter on a strong offensive club. If he falters, the Cardinals have Martinez, Tyler Lyons, Michael Wacha, and others ready to fill in. Peavy might stay healthy and pitch effectively, but how ill would club management (and fans) feel if they traded away Martinez, for example, only to watch Peavy go down with an injury in his third start? Think about Mark DeRosa in 2009. I don’t think any Cardinal fan is anxious to re-live that deal.

Other alternatives: I would argue that the Cardinals would be better off bolstering their bullpen. Acquiring a reliever such as Jim Henderson, Luke Gregerson, Glen Perkins, or the like would be less expensive in trade, yet it could have just as powerful an impact on the pitching staff. Remember how well Edward Mujica worked out last season? Adding another arm (or two) would alleviate pressure on young flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal and the other young arms in the pen.

While he’s not the power strikeout machine he was in his Padres heyday, he could be an effective pitcher for a contender. He could even show flashes of dominance on a good day. But, given the health risks, expensive salary and talent cost, is he worth the gamble? I don’t think so. I hope John Mozeliak agrees with me.

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Chicago Cubs Gain 7 Wins In One Day

Chicago right now is in a frenzy state. The Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup in dramatic fashion. It is their second championship in four seasons. Bears training camp is still a few weeks away. This void in sports can only be filled by two baseball teams unfortunately well under the .500 mark currently. The White Sox and Cubs are both struggling.

CarlosMarmol

However, just hours after the Cup arrived in the Windy City; the Chicago Cubs acquired much needed wins in a single day. How you ask? By finally completing a much needed roster move about two years in the making. The Cubs have designated Carlos Marmol for assignment. What that means is that the Cubs now have ten days to either find another team to make a trade, send him to the minors, or release him. If released, Marmol would then be placed on waives for any team to make an offer or ultimately become a free agent.

Suddenly in Chicago, the cheers of the Stanley Cup are being replaced by cheers of potential wins on the diamond. The Cubs clubhouse has cheers from a starting rotation that may receive a few extra wins and not handed more quality no decisions. The streets around Wrigley Field have cheers that the team now may actually hold onto leads after five innings. The Cubs are near the top in blown saves and games lost when leading after five innings.

Granted, playoff tickets should still not be printed but this is a roster move much long overdue. If you are not familiar with the Carlos Marmol saga it can be summed up by a much to common stat line: 1/3 of an inning pitched, 3 walks, 1 passed ball, 2 hits, and 4 runs scored leading to a blown save or loss.

Carlos Marmol had a special way of driving Cub fans to hair pulling and frustration. When he was called upon there really was no clue of what was going to happen. On the mound, visually it looked like even Marmol had no clue. It is sad, because a few years ago Marmol was at the top of his craft. In 2010, he was an All-Star, untouchable, and arguably one of the best closers in the game. He had a slider that was unhittable and made batters look like they were swinging at wiffle balls. But somewhere along the line he lost it.

He is not the first to fall from having his “A Game” and he will not be the last. Players such as Rick Ankiel, Jose Valverde, and John Axford are just to name a few. It would also not be a complete surprise if on a new club he somehow finds “it” and pitches well for the rest of the season. The Atlanta Braves are one team reportedly interested in Marmol. Cub fans have seen a few former pitchers go to Atlanta and find success in the past. Hello Greg Maddux.

In the current moment, Cub fans will love the move. They will view it as a headache gone. Organizationally however, it is a hard loss. There is a heavy salary still owed to Marmol, and it is hard to think that for the last few seasons Carlos was a prime trade target to gain prospects in return. No deals were made, and now the Cubs have to hope that just the removal of the presence will lead to wins and improvement in chemistry.

The corresponding move was that the team brought up outfielder Brian Bogusevic from the Iowa Cubs. Brian is currently hitting .319 with 14 doubles, 3 triples, 10 home runs, 32 RBI, and 16 stolen bases. He is another young talent that may bring a spark to Clark and Addison.

At the very least, the late innings may now be able to be watched with both eyes and not have them covered with fear.

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The Evolving Kansas City Royals: The Offense

For several years now the Kansas City Royals have had one of the better farm systems in Major League Baseball.  Most teams should be so lucky.  The Royals haven’t been able to translate this advantage into success on the field and there would seem to be one very good reason for this.

Mike_Moustakas

You can’t win the World Series with the AAA Storm Chasers.  It takes time to scout and develop major league talent.  While developing young talent can be exciting, it usually comes with long periods of growing pains while the fans wait for the team to assemble all of the necessary pieces to win consistently.  And if you’re a mid-market team like the Royals, then you hope that you have enough players developed each year to keep costs down.

But the patience may be paying off for Royals fans as they are now getting a glimpse at what a winning, home-grown baseball team looks like in Kansas City.  Mike Moustakas, who was a 1st round draft pick in 2007, had 20 home runs and 73 RBIs last year in 560+ at bats.  Despite having a slow start in April, Moustakas has shown signs that his bat is coming alive hitting 3 home runs in the last week.  Moustakas isn’t available for arbitration until 2015 and doesn’t become a free agent until 2018.  Moustakas is still far from the player the Royals want him to be though.  He drew only 39 walks and struck out 124 times last year.  However, if Moustakas can learn some discipline at the plate he is sure to be the guy holding down the hot corner for years to come at Kauffman stadium.

There is cause for optimism for Moustakas as his first year stats are not all that dissimilar to the numbers that outfielder Alex Gordon put up in his debut year.  Gordon, another 1st round pick from 2005 also struck out in excess of 130 times with only 41 walks.  You won’t hear anyone complaining about Alex Gordon though as the Royals have developed him into a player that turns in a 300 plus batting average every year.  Now hitting in the 3rd spot in the lineup, he is currently batting over .320 this year and already has 6 home runs to go with that average.  Gordon is signed through 2015 with a club option for the 2016 season.

Gordon’s breakout is exactly what the Royal’s front office is hoping will happen for Eric Hosmer this year.  Hosmer, yet another first round pick from 2008 broke into the league in 2011 with 19 home runs and a .293 average.  As with other rookies, the walk rate could have been better but this was certainly a better rookie season than most expected.  Unfortunately it was followed up by a lack luster year in 2012 as his average dipped 60 points.  His average on balls in play (BABIP) for 2012 was a head hanging 255.  Hosmer is still incredibly young and should be able to correct his issues from last year.  Balls in play for 2013 are already up to 326.  Hosmer is available for arbitration next year so this season he is the player to watch as the Royals have been pretty open about how much they expect from him.  In fact, they probably expect him to be Billy Butler…at least by the numbers.

Billy Butler, if you’re keeping track, is also a 1st round draft pick, consistently hits for average and power.  In his 7th year playing for the Royals he has racked up 107 home runs and over 500 RBIs and will probably get his 1,000th career hit before you finish reading this page.  This is the type of production the Royals want from Hosmer and it’s also why Butler’s 2015 option is starting to look like either the window for a home grown championship team or the year the Royals break out the check book and pay up.

While Butler is the type of player that all teams hope to develop, possibly the most important and likely the most overlooked piece to this young organization is Salvador Perez.  At 23 years old, Perez already holds the Royals franchise pick-off record for a single season.  The Royals believe that he will become one of the game’s best defensive catchers in years to come, something that no championship team can be without.  And the kid can hit as well.  In over 140 career games, Perez is hanging onto a 300 plus average.  The Royals feel so good about Perez that despite his apparent lack of experience, they have him signed through 2016 with options all the way through 2019.

In a weak division, this offensive core might be enough to keep the Royals out of the basement for the foreseeable future but to be yearly contenders we’re still missing something.

Check back tomorrow for a look at the pitching staff.

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Rick Ankiel Returns To St. Louis

Rick Ankiel began the 2013 season as a member of the Houston Astros.  After a month of the season, he was given his release and found himself a free agent.

RickAnkiel

Until today.

Ankiel is on his way to St. Louis and is expected to be in the starting lineup tonight when the New York Mets take the field against Ankiel’s former team.

The story of Ankiel and his journey through baseball from starting pitcher to slugging outfielder is well documented.  His time in St. Louis developed a near cult following, thanks in large part to the love Aaron Hooks and Cards Diaspora shows him on a regular basis.

Tonight Ankiel returns to Busch Stadium, once again as a member of the opposition.  He has spent limited time in the visitor’s dugout of Busch Stadium, having played only six games against the team that drafted him.  In those six games, he is hitting .250 with no home runs and a single run batted in.  He does boast a .260 average with 24 home runs and 83 runs batted in over the course of 489 at bats during his career at the current version of Busch Stadium.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by 
clicking here.

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Luke Hochevar finding his niche as a reliever

It’s pretty easy to point out all the bad decisions the Royals organization made over the years. But they’ve made some right decisions and one of them was to make Luke Hochevar a reliever.

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With all the improvements the Royals made to the starting rotation, moving Hochevar to the bullpen was a no-brainier. In his 127 games as a starter, Hochevar had a 5.45 ERA, giving up 94 home runs and a 2.08 SS/BB ratio. Last year, he lead the American League with 118 earned runs, which isn’t a good stat. His inconsistency as a starter frustrated the Royals fan base and I’m sure if frustrated Hochevar too. Sure, a lot of fans wanted the Royals to release Hochevar earlier this year. Despite his issues, it would be foolish to release Hochevar without giving him a chance in the bullpen.

And so far Hochevar’s move to the bullpen has worked out. In six games over 8.2 innings, he has a 1.04 ERA with only one earned run (a solo home run) and a 3.67 SO/BB ratio. One of the knocks on Hochevar as a starter was his tendency to lose focus, which allowed him to give up big innings. But pitching an inning or two and being on call to pitch every day appears to give Hochevar the focus he needs to get batters out and be an asset to the team.

But paying 4.56MM a year for a middle reliever is a high price to pay. Hochevar will be a free agent after the 2014 season. If Hochevar continues his success as a reliever, perhaps the Royals can offer Hochevar a contract for a few years and a lower per year salary. Now that’s something Hochevar might have a problem with, seeing his agent is Scott Boras. And if Hochevar is successful as a reliever, he might think he can be successful as a starter again. But unless the Royals put him back in the rotation (which I don’t think is a good idea), Luke Hochevar’s future is being a reliever, which is best for the team and for Hochevar.

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